City salutes those who served with somber ceremony
By Scott Akanewich
On a blustery morning in Liberty Hill, the City held its fourth annual Veterans’ Day ceremony Thursday at the downtown memorial dedicated to all those who have served America over the years in all branches of the armed forces throughout various conflicts.
Guest speaker was Sgt. Maj. Brian Harless, currently a member of the U.S. Army’s Green Berets and a former Marine, who has been deployed numerous times to various parts of the world over the course of a military career spanning over three decades.
Harless delivered a message that was concise, to the point and meant to cause pause for the audience, which was sprinkled with veterans of all ages adorned in the various garb representing their respective services.
“People don’t understand what veterans go through – especially their families,” said Harless, a Texas native, who stood before the crowd in his Class A uniform adorned with medals and ribbons from a decorated career. “But, it’s the communities like this that come together in supporting them.”
Harless spoke of the many experiences he’s gone through over the years, with a few lively anecdotes thrown in, but he always returned to a theme including the vital characteristics required for one who is willing to serve – including honor, selfless sacrifice, commitment and most of all, courage.
“Sometimes we ask young men to do things they’re probably not going to walk away from,” said Harless. “It takes communities like this one to support guys who are going to war. I hope I never see again when soldiers aren’t supported like after the Vietnam War, but I think we’re past that.”
Harless also spoke of the obligation of each generation to continue to uphold the examples set by those who came before them in wearing the uniform of their country.
“Our forefathers set a standard we always need to be able to measure up to,” he said. “Our veterans have always been ready to fight anywhere, anytime, and willing to give their lives.”
Following Harless’ speech, the American flag at the memorial – which was faded and tattered after having flown over the site for the past year since last fall’s ceremony – was replaced with a new one, with the retired colors presented to Dale Bates, 97, Liberty Hill’s oldest living veteran who served as a gunner on a bomber crew in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Pacific theater during World War II.
Once the new flag had been raised, Liberty Hill High School’s Liberty Belles unfurled each of the flags of the five service branches – Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard – while the songs of the respective services were played while members of each in the audience stood.
In closing the ceremony, the Liberty Belles performed a veteran-themed routine wearing olive-and-black military outfits while a famous Veterans’ Day speech by former President Ronald Reagan was played over the public address system.
During his closing remarks, Harless alluded to the stone monuments that ring the flagpole at the memorial and what they represent.
“All of the people whose names are on these walls served their country because they wanted to,” he said. “They were willing to fight and die for their fellow Americans, which we all need to remember. Anyone who has stepped up and served is my hero.”